Saturday, February 26, 2011

A Cousin Is A Ready Made Friend for Life

"A cousin is a little bit of childhood that can never be lost."
Author: Marion C. Garretty

I spent most of the late morning today on the phone with my cousin Donna.  We hadn't had a long conversation for several months.  She'd been out of state, and I'd been working.  There hasn't been time for lunch or a long chat.  We had a lot to catch up on, and so we did.  I am so reminded of the quote above whenever we are together.  She truly is a little bit of my childhood that can never be lost.

Donna, my cousin who is and was my ready made friend for life,was born in the same hospital, the old Bethel Hospital in Colorado Springs, just days after I was.  She says that her mother took over the same room my mother had just vacated to take me home when she was born.  Our earliest days were spent together.  We learned to walk, to talk, to ride bikes, to fix our hair, to cook, to do just about everything together.  I barely have a childhood memory that does not have her in it.  Most early photos of me include her in the photo.

We lived within a few blocks from each other.  Our church, our school, our grandmother, the grocery store and the drugstore were all located in that four block sphere of our early existence.

The photo above was taken on our first Easter.  My mother and I are on the left side of the photo.  My brother is in the center.  My Aunt Katherine and my cousin Donna are on the right side.  The photo is taken in the front yard of my grandmother house.  Across the street (you can't see it) is the church where our parents were married and where we went to church.  Next to the church was the school where we attended just as our parents had done before us.

I remember many birthday parties, and family trips to the mountains together.  We picnicked  in the Garden of the Gods together, and scurried up the side of sandstone bluffs together on childhood picnics to Austin Bluffs.  We played for hours in the stream where we built dams when we went camping to our favorite camping spot in the Colorado Mountains.  We called this place, "The Green Spot."  Oh how we loved this idyllic spot where we slept under a beautiful canopy of a sky filled with millions of beautiful stars.  It was here where we tried to pick up the radio station KOMA 101 out of Oklahoma City from the car radio parked at our family camping spot when we were teenagers.

We spent endless summer days playing at our grandparents summer house in Victor, Colorado.  That was a magical place that fed our childhood play acting where we pretended to be pioneers.  All the cousins slept together in the back bedroom where we giggled ourselves to sleep at night.  Or, other times we would try to scare each other with ghost stories.

Other long summer afternoons were spent swinging on the front porch of her house watching the rain come down while we told stories or talked.  Other times, we would go to the library to check our beloved Little House on the Prairie books.  Or, we would play kick the can at night at my house.  Our summer night treats would be homemade root beer that my father would make.  He would bottle his root beer in old beer bottles.  We loved sitting on the front porch drinking from those bottles in hopes we would shock the neighbors!  Or, we would make ourselves wonderful root beer floats and decorate them with olives.  (Yuk!)  We even ate off the same cookie the day before she came down with the chicken pox.  For some reason, I didn't get sick.

When we were in junior high, we walked to school together.  Those were the days when girls wore bouffant skirts.  Our nylon net slips were starched in sugar water and layered under our full skirts.  We suffered for beauty's sake at school.  Those slips were scratchy!  Then, we'd slip them off and carry them home because we couldn't bear walking the long distance in those uncomfortable things.  Perhaps, we only did this once because when our mother's found out, we weren't allowed to do such a thing again.

We experimented with make up, drooled over Seventeen magazine's fashionable clothes, checked the top ten pop tunes every week, or watch American Bandstand together during our early teen years.  We wore our first formals together when we joined Rainbow Girls.

On the way home from junior high, there was a drugstore with an old-fashioned soda fountain.  We'd stop in there to buy a fountain made cherry coke on our home so we could ogle the handsome, soda jerk who had beautiful blue eyes as he prepared our drinks for us.  Later in life, my cousin took me to a pharmacy in town so I could see our childhood crush.  Now, a pharmacist, he was still working in a drug store, but I wondered what we had seen in him back then.

We went to kindergarten through ninth grade together.  We went to college together.  We married and both had five children.  In our early adult years we did not live near each other.  Nearly twenty-five years ago, I returned to Colorado Springs where she was still living.  She found me a house to live in just about a block from her house.  Our Uncle Charles was just a block away.  Our children went to school together.  Then she moved to Phoenix shortly after.

Now, we live near each other again.  We now do such things as talk about how to apply for medicare or adjust to retirement.  I guess you can say we've come full circle.  Only my mother and an aunt remain of the old guard.  All our aunts and uncles and grandparents are gone.  I think at this juncture in life,  we tend to treasure our cousins more than ever because they join us in keeping a part of our childhood alive.

Donna & Sally's First Family Christmas
Donna is held by my Aunt Katherine and her father Uncle Don is holding Aunt K.  My grandmother is is beside my mother who holds me.  My Uncle Charles, home on leave from being a paratrooper in WWII, is holding his wife Betty.  In front are my Aunt Carolyn and Aunt Phyllis.  Phyllis is holding my brother Rell.  My father, serving in the Army and my Uncle Bob serving in the Marines, were not home on leave when the photo was taken.

A few years ago we went to San Diego together for a week.  We had such fun.  I'm so glad we did that.  New memories were made.  Just the two of us were able to have some new adventures and recall the old ones.

Donna and Sally
San Diego
Donna, though technically a cousin, is not just a dear friend, she is like a sister to me.  She is now walking through the difficult task of helping to care for her daughter who is fighting a two-year long battle with melanoma.  She listens to me as I talk about my daughter's death and illness.  We are navigating difficult waters together.  We are in places we never could have imagined in our carefree childhoods, but I am grateful we forged those bonds long ago because they seem even more priceless than ever before as we get older.